Introducing Kimberly from Book 3 by Lill Kohler
Kimberly McConil plated the juicy pot roast on the gold-rimmed floral platter, pleased the carrots, onions, and potatoes slid into place without spilling over the edge. A deep whiff confirmed she had remembered to add all the seasonings. She poured the thickened broth into her grandmother’s gravy bowl.
Giggles from the upstairs loft area signaled that Phil managed to distract the twins from their video game Cars Mater-National Championship. She smiled and sighed. Ah, this is the life. But she was still on a time crunch.
One last review of the table reminded her she forgot the applesauce. Once she poured that into her newly acquired antique crystal etched bowl, she placed it next to the meat and vegetables at the center of the table.
“Phil, kids, dinner’s ready.” She grabbed the butter for the rolls and the serving utensils then called again.
The giggling grew in volume. “No, Daddy, not like that.”
“Hmm.” She made her way upstairs in time to see the three of them fixated on the TV screen.
“Excuse me.” She raised her voice enough to get over the squeals.
None of them turned or stopped.
Heat rose in her cheeks. Her meal would not taste good if it was cold. She walked in front of the screen.
“Mom.” The twins echoed.
She cleared her throat as she mentally counted to ten. “I called for you guys. Dinner is ready. And it’s getting cold.”
“Oh, honey. I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Phil cocked his head toward the twins.
She threw him her famous if-looks-could-kill stare. He smirked and then swirled his finger in a circular motion. “Come on, wrap it up. You heard your mom. Dinner’s ready.”
Five minutes later they were finally settled at the table. They joined hands and blessed their meal. Phil leaned over and gave her his traditional peck. And with that, she forgave his delay.
Lori had barely finished buttering her bread in the time it took her twin, Cory, to devour half of the large portions he served himself. “Slow down Cory. You’ll get ingestion.” Lori reprimanded her brother.
“Indigestion, sweetness.” Phil corrected. “How was school today kids?”
Cory immediately replayed the soccer game highlights and the almost fight in the cafeteria. He did manage to share some of the day’s history and science lessons.
Lori began her stories as soon as Cory took a breath. She focused on what each of her friends wore to school and what they all ate for lunch. She took a few more bites. “Oh, I almost forgot. Aunt Connie called.”
“That’s who you were on the phone with?” Cory slammed his fork on the table. “Why didn’t you tell me? I want to talk to her too. She knows things.” His brows lifted, and his eyes twinkled.
Kimberly almost dropped her fork into her lap. A quick glance at Phil revealed he hadn’t missed her reaction. She painted on a perfectly composed expression. “Oh? When was that?”
“When you ran to the store after we got home.” Lori licked the applesauce off her spoon. “She is so cool. We talked a long time. She even helped me with my math homework.”
“How long were you gone, sweetheart?” Phil’s right eyebrow was cocked.
She waved it off. “Not long, but the store was more crowded than I expected.” She refocused on Lori. “So, did she say why she called?” Kimberly hadn’t left her youngest sibling a message or anything. Never mind that their relationship was more strained than most sisters experienced.
“Ah. No.” Lori tilted her head to the right. “She just said to tell you to call her.”
Great. “Well, thank you, sweetheart.” Kimberly gently placed her fork on her near-empty plate and then rubbed her hands on her pant legs.
Kimberly passed the rest of the meal in a fog. Her sister never called her about anything. Good or bad. They rarely spoke.
The twins asked to be excused to finish their homework and then dashed upstairs.
“I need to take a little walk.” She told Phil as she cleared the table. “Can you get the kids ready for bed tonight?”
“Sure.” He rose and pushed his chair in.
She stood on tiptoes and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
He pulled out a towel and began to dry. “By the way, that yellow bowl you used tonight . . .”
Oh, he noticed. She wanted to jump for joy.
“It’s new, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” She smiled. “It’s an antique.”
Her stomach roiled. “Only fifty dollars.”
Phil stumbled back. “Ah, sweetheart. Did you get this at an authorized antique dealer?”
“Oh, my, no.” Her hair bounced on her cheeks as she shook her head. “It would have cost so much more. I found it at the arts and crafts mall. There’s a sweet old man who sells antiques from time to time. He said it was crystal.”
“Ah.” Phil covered his face with the towel and then looked at her again. “Honey, my grandma Josephine had one like that. Unfortunately, I accidentally broke it when I was twelve.”
Kimberly’s stomach flipped as she felt blood drain from her face.
“She bought it at the local five and dime store. It had St. Martin stamped on the bottom of it.”
“What are you saying?”
“Did you check the bottom for a stamped name?”
Her throat tightened as she pulled the bowl out of the drying rack. Like a spotlight beam, the glaring words St. Martin stood out. “So, it’s not crystal?”
“It was a poor man’s crystal. They managed to make a thin glass that made purchasers feel wealthy.”
She felt light-headed. Her hands clung to the bowl with white knuckles to fight the destructive urge to throw it onto the floor and shatter it.
“Tell you what.” Phil took the bowl from her and placed it in their china cabinet. “It’ll be our little secret. But don’t brag on your find. Sound good?”
She bobbed her head, but she felt like an idiot. Just another poorly made financial decision. When would she ever learn?
His eyes roamed her face. “You all right?”
“Just need time to gather my thoughts before I call her.”
“Yes.” She shook her head. “I need to walk and pray.”
Kimberly stepped out onto their back deck and then down the incline past their pool. She was thankful for the small patch of woods that backed up to the neighborhood green belt. Walking among God’s creation helped her clear her mind.
If baby sister hadn’t called before, even those times when Mama and Dad told her that Connie might call, why now?
The last time she spoke with her parents, they were excited her sister was going to join them at the Wright Foundation. Kimberly had always wanted to be asked to come alongside them, but they never proposed that. Maybe Connie wasn’t going to join them. Maybe she needed advice on how to tell them.
Then again Connie never asked Kimberly for advice.
Maybe something was wrong with Mama and Dad. That would explain why she didn’t tell Lori anything.
Fear spurred her on as she did an about-face to traverse the manicured wood trail back to her home.
She found her husband in the exercise room. Kimberly sat on the edge of Phil’s workout bench as he wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Connie never calls me. I’m really starting to worry.”
“Tell you what. Let’s call her together. We’ll make it a conference call. I’ll see if I can read between the lines. See if she’s saying something without coming right out and speaking the words.”
“Yes. Let’s do that.” She nestled her head against his shoulder.
“Sounds good.” Phil gave the top of her head a peck then stood. “Do you think it’s too late to call now?”
“Should be alright. It’s not that late.” Her stomach fluttered.
Phil’s warm sweaty hand grabbed her shaky fingers as he led her to the house phone. “I’ll get on the extension in the bedroom.”
With a deep breath, Kimberly dialed the number of her sister’s fancy cellular phone.
Connie answered on the third ring. “Hey there.”
Sure didn’t sound like an emergency. “Lori told me that you called. Phil is on the line, with us.”
“Hi Connie.” His voice encouraged Kimberly.
She wasn’t in this alone. Whatever this was. “Are Mama and Dad okay?”
“They’re fine. Hold on a sec.” Kimberly heard the closing of a door through the phone. “Okay. I’m walking alone now.”
“Why don’t you want Mama and Dad to hear you?” Maybe there was something wrong, even with her sister’s light tone.
“I’m having trouble trusting their new accountant. Dad keeps putting me off, telling me that this other guy is doing exactly what Dad wants. But the man gives me vague answers like, ‘I’m looking into it.’”
“Why don’t you tell us your concerns.” Phil piped in.
After several minutes of Connie’s descriptions and replaying of conversations, the line went quiet.
“Well, I think he’s fine.” Kimberly’s mind stopped focusing on Connie’s concerns shortly after she started. She’d met the man, and as far as she was concerned, he passed her tests. “The man’s handsome and always dressed in the latest style. He looks you straight in the eyes when he speaks to you. Someone who’s lying to you, or deceiving you, wouldn’t do that.”
“I wish that were true, sweetheart.” Phil’s voice sounded calm, but the slight condemnation undertone increased her heart rate.
Her face warmed. “But he always seems to be upfront whenever I asked him questions. Seems like an open book type of person.” She rubbed her forehead. “You know someone you can trust.”
Phil gave something between a hum and a growl. “Connie, I believe your mom and dad did a background check when he first applied, or they wouldn’t have trusted him. That being said, I think you have legit reasons for a second independent check done on the man.” Phil’s words were totally opposite of what she told Connie.
She wanted to scream.
Connie spoke up before Kimberly could open her mouth. “Phil, thank you. I have an investigative reporter friend. I’ll see if she can do a little digging. Maybe call his previous employers to get a better idea about him.”
“But . . .” Kimberly still felt the man was innocent.
“Thank you both. I’m home now, so I’ve got to go. Love you guys.” She clicked off.
Heat burned in Kimberly’s face as she laid the receiver in the cradle. Once again, her opinion didn’t seem to weigh much in Connie’s eyes.
She heard Phil call her name from the top of the stairs. She turned on the water in the sink and splashed some on her face as his shoes clicked on the foyer’s tile floor.
He stopped in the kitchen entry. “I know you disagree with me, Kimberly.” Phil reached for her. “But if she feels in her gut something’s wrong then she needs to check it out.” He lifted her wet chin, so her face was in his line of vision. “If she’s wrong, then you’ll know you were right.”
Kimberly smiled and bounced her head. This man sure had a way of making the sun shine on a gloomy moment.
Thank you, God.
Watch for Episode 5 tomorrow!